Blog Post List

This blog post list contains the most recent blog posts from The Messy Baker in reverse chronological order. You can also browse by recipe category or use the search function.

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18 Feb
Swiss Chard with Raisins and Pine Nuts
I fall easily into a vegetable rut. If it weren't for this blog I'd happily get my daily quota of greens from string beans, broccoli and mesclun mix salad. I once ate Basil and Walnut Green Beans every night for a week.  When I stopped I swear, the stock for California walnuts plummeted. But I have promised you a vegetable dish a week in 2010. That's 52 distinct recipes. Since I can't come up with that many variations with only three base ingredients, I am branching into scary territory. Swiss chard. And I'm pleased to report it's not all that scary. I feared it would be slimy or bitter or boring. It was none of these. As luck would have it, a copy of Everday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast by the good people at Martha Stewart Living arrived just in time for me to fulfill my vegetable obligations. Make fun of Martha all you want, but when she decides to do something, she does it well. This book is no exception. No chi-chi recipes for wedding cakes, truffles or finicky hors d'oeuvres that will take the better part of a week to make. Just simple recipes, fresh ingredients and delicious results. Even the photography is clean and simple -- but beautiful. This dish was one of four Winter Vegetable dishes offered on a single page. While all looked enticing, I tackled Swiss chard because I can't say no to the combination of garlic, balsamic vinegar and nuts. Each winter vegetable recipe required six ingredients (or fewer) and nothing more exotic than pine nuts. And it's within an everyday budget. You won't be forced to visit six specialty shops and the bank for a second mortgage. Best of all,  I had the chard plated and ready for the camera in about 15 minutes.
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16 Feb
Savory Cheese Cookies
You will see no pancakes here today. No stacks of blueberry buttermilk griddle cakes dripping with maple syrup. No golden latkes dotted with sour cream or slathered in apple sauce. Not so much as a waffle. Crepes? Forget it. Instead, I'm offering you little disks of fat in the form of  savory cheese cookies. The biscuits above were made by -- I kid you not -- Elizabeth Baird. Herself. Yes, the food editor for Canadian Living, author of more books than I have digits and all-round culinary guru baked these. Let me be clear. This not a case where I baked a batch using her recipe. These very cookies emerged from her oven, mixed by her hands.
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12 Feb
Last Chance to order Blog Aid

I interrupt this regularly scheduled vegetable post to inform you that today is the last day to order Blog Aid: Recipes for Haiti. The cut off is noon MST, which is 2:00 EST and a half hour later in Newfoundland. Despite how it looks, we're not giving...

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11 Feb
How to Butcher or Debone Chicken
See those pretty crystals? They're salt. Yes, we need this essential element to live, but the average Canadian consumes three times the daily recommended dose. Spend a few minutes Googling "high-sodium diet" and you'll likely consider tossing your fleur de sel out the window. Fortunately, this isn't necessary. I was talking with Dawn Thomas, the voice of Rouxbe Online Cooking School.  She says their site doesn't label recipes low-sodium (or low-fat for that matter) and doesn't plan to. Why not? It's unnecessary. Once you learn proper cooking techniques you control these factors. So over the next few weeks I'll be devoting the occasional post to simple ways to reduce the salt in your diet. And as a special bonus, you'll find you're saving money. We'll start with deboning chicken. An easy place to start shaving that salt lick from your diet is at the butcher counter with plain old fresh chicken. If you learn to debone chicken yourself, you'll avoid sodium-laced seasoned meats and have plenty of bones for homemade stock -- low-sodium, tasty, rich stock. Deboning chicken stars with a sharp knife. I buy bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. As soon as I get home, I debone them and freeze the bones for stock. Now, I know a lot of you are thinking this is time consuming. Initially, I thought so too, but I got out my timer. Deboning a whole chicken breast (that's left and right side, so two pieces) took me exactly 4 minutes 8 seconds. And I don't even have a proper boning knife. Cubing the chicken breast took and additional 1 minute 15 seconds each breast. In just over 6 minutes I had enough boneless, skinless chicken cubes for two mains. Money saved? At least 10% of the cost of the boneless version. I went to my butcher (Valeriote's Market on Yorkshire for those who wonder where I get gigantic, local chicken), and he kindly indulged me in a true comparison. He weighed a 3.3 pound whole skin-on, bone-in chicken breast and calculated the price. It cost $11.55. He then skinned, deboned and weighed the same chicken breast again. This time the cost was $12.82.  By buying bone-in chicken, I saved 10% on my meat bill AND had bones for stock. Plus, I had the option of keeping the skin on, which is essential for some recipes like Roasted Lemon and Cilantro Chicken, which I often make it with chicken breasts alone. Want to save more? Buy a whole chicken and butcher it yourself. Seriously. It's not that hard. With a bit of practice "Easy as deboning a chicken" will become part of your lingo. To help you on your deboning journey, once again, I turn to the good people at Rouxbe Online Cooking School. They've kindly provided videos that will reduce the intimidation factor.
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09 Feb
Frozen Ginger and a Garlic Peeler
My recent CTV appearance proved my career as a mind reader would be short lived. I went on expecting some reader questions about roasted vegetables. Nope. Everyone seems to have them down pat. Instead, everyone was interested in frozen ginger and "that garlic thing." So, here goes:

Frozen Ginger

I started freezing ginger when I got tired of buying fresh, plump, juicy roots and mere days later tossing wrinkled, dried up knobs of wood into the garbage. I'd read that you could freeze ginger without sacrificing flavour and experimented a bit -- peeling or not peeling, chopping or not chopping. To my delight, I found the simplest approach is best.
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08 Feb
CTV and My Brush with Fame

So, I'm sitting in the green room of CTV studios in Kitchener waiting to go on. The person ushering me in tells me to take a seat and before leaving points to another guest and says, "And of course you know Alan." I nod knowingly...

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05 Feb
Blog Aid for Haiti
Julie Van Rosendaal is a miracle worker. In what must be the fastest turn-around in cookbook publishing history, she conceived, organized and helped deliver Blog Aid: Recipes for Haiti.  In less than three weeks she got 27 food bloggers to donate 72 recipes complete with photos, one very tired designer (Cathryn Ironwood) to give the book a cohesive look, and two corporate sponsors (West Canadian Graphics in Calgary and Blurb in San Fransisco) to match proceeds. The results? The book's been on sale all of 24 hours and we've raised more than $20,000. Proceeds of book sales will go toward Haitian relief via the Red Cross and Doctors without Borders. And the proceeds are potentially big. Here's how Julie explained it to me in a recent email [emphasis mine]:
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04 Feb
How to Roast Vegetables
[caption id="attachment_2470" align="alignnone" width="640"]A Trio of Roasted Vegetables - The Messy Baker Sweet Potatoes roasted with rosemary[/caption] I got a bit carried away. I was experimenting with roasted vegetables for today's CTV appearance and ended up making five variations. I just couldn't make up my mind which version I liked best, so I made them all. Well, almost all. Having recently posted about Herb-Roasted Potatoes I felt I could skip this one and try some less obvious options. While I know that steaming is the most healthy option, I think of it as more of a summer technique. Light, bright vegetables suit the sunny weather. But during the dull, grey days of winter? I require more depth of flavour, more variation. And roasted vegetables are the ultimate free-style side dish. Not only does roasting caramelize the natural sugars and make the dish delightfully sweet, the options are almost limitless. You can roast almost any vegetable, combine them in any way you like and season them as the mood fits. Just follow the basic steps and you can't really go wrong. To properly roast vegetables you need a:
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02 Feb
Black Forest Chocolate Cookies
Sneaking in under the wire. It's still Groundhog Day. And all I can think of is Bill Murray sitting in a Punxsatawney diner, stuffing his face full of donuts with impunity. According to the groundhog, we have six more weeks of winter coming, which makes me want to stuff my face with donuts, too. Only I know that if I do, I won't start the next day as if nothing happened. Impunity for gluttonous digressions is not part of my Groundhog Day reality. Wanting something decadent, but reasonably healthy, I decided to make some chocolate cookies. Looking in my cupboards I found what I needed. Cocoa is always low-fat, dried cherries are full of antioxidants and nuts are good for you. Add a glass of milk and it's practically a whole meal.
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01 Feb
Seeds, Plants and Thoughts of Spring

January nearly broke me. Lots of bills. Little sun. And weather that fluctuated between skin-shrivelling rain and nostril-frosting cold. But I think I'm going to make it after all. Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces by Gayla Trail (Clarskson/Potter, 2010) arrived the other day....

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